Wandering the streets again....

Trip Start Jan 19, 2006
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Trip End Jan 19, 2007


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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Friday, March 3, 2006

(Em here. Dave's blog entry yesterday has worn him out)
Got back to Hanoi yesterday afternoon and returned to the same hotel as it was nice and good value. Did a bit more wandering round the old town (am sure have done every street now) and went to check on our paintings that we are getting done and have made a few artistic recommendations which they will complete by tomorrow.

Got a cyclo down to Ngo Bao Khan (a road with lots of bars and restaus on) and went for a great, if not very Vietnamese, dinner at the Stop Cafe which is directly next door to a posher, more expensive, restaurant, Cafe Des Amis, but they share the same kitchen. So as you would expect we had a french meal (which is sort of Vietnamese). Dave had steak with peppercorn sauce and chips (for a change) and was ecstatic for the rest of the evening! We then met up with David and Mark (2 US brothers we met in Sapa and bumped into again around Halong Bay) at the GC Bar where we allowed them to beat us at pool as they so kindly bought us a few beers (thanks again guys!). Wandered home at midnight and the streets were desolate and quiet completely different to the daytime where you have to dodge the traffic and could do with some ear plugs for all the bike horns. Got to our hotel and had to be let in to find that the whole reception area was full of sleeping bodies and motorbikes!

Today we completed our mission to collect the set of Communist embalmed leaders and went to see Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum. Of the three we have now done this was the most well organised/regimented, although I wouldn't put a foot wrong at any of them the number of guards there were around. Dave got told off for having his hands in his pockets! Uncle Ho is a small fellow and looked similarly waxwork to the rest of them. The strange thing about his body is that it is taken to Russia every year for 3 months for it to be re-embalmed, sure there is something dodgy going on there. After that and seeing his house, palace, museum, garden fence etc we felt a bit Ho Chi Minhed out and walked up to the One Pillar Pagoda (not terribly exciting) and then to the Temple of Literature. This was lovely and very well kept and was the first university in Vietnam with obligatory temple and lots of stone turtles around (a symbol of long life).

Having completed our cultural duties for the day we had some jobs to do first of which was to change all our flight tickets due to our revised schedule. We have decided to add on another week to SE Asia and chop it off from Oz. We are also now going to Cambodia first and then Laos. So have booked a flight from Danang (not far from where we go next - Hoi An) to Saigon/HCMC for about $40 each where we will get a bus/boat to Phnom Penh. Walked for miles to BA's office to change the rest of our flights and found a great restaurant next door called Cafe Pho. Was absolutely full of Vietnamese office workers in a courtyard spilling onto the street. Decided that it must be good so sat down to then discover there was an all you can eat Vietnamese buffet for 32.000 VD (about one pound 15p) so we were quite happy! Eventually got to BA office (no, we were not rolled) and spent ages changing our flights - about 10 changes in all (plus have confirmed our later flights and flight home) for about 10 pounds each which was pretty good.

Then wandered back to the old town and the lake and bought some supplies for our train journey tonight. Fortunately Dave has conceded that going by train to Hue is better than bus although it is quite a lot more expensive. Bus is about $12 and train about $33 for a 13 hour journey but I much prefer sleeping horizontally and the train is much more of an experience (see later). Whilst in old town sorted out our paintings and shipping them home plus have done some work on our related business venture which we will be testing out shortly (watch this space). We then found a 'bia hoi' (local beer place) where the fresh beer was about 5p a glass and thought it would be rude not to have one (am conscious that we sound like complete alcoholics but we aren't honest!)

Got to train station at 18.00 for 19.00 train and were joined by two Vietnamese men one of whom was completely off his face (drunk). It felt like a similar conversation to that we were having with the little girls in Sapa but was just with one person:
Where are you from?
Where are you going?
How long for?
These questions were then repeated every 2-5 minutes for the next hour.

We then embarked upon making our dinner which I was very excited about - french bread with brie and pate and a bottle of red (Portugese) - was great, needless to say, despite spilling a large quantity of red on the floor due to the bumpy train.

In an effort to further cross-cultural relations we offered the two guys some of our chocolate covered Kendal mint cake which then provoked the drunk guy to give us some of his rice cakes he had bought specially from Hanoi for his family. Despite our protestations he forced us to have them and then asked to swap two more rice cakes for the rest of our Kendal mint cake. Dave is still not very happy about the loss.

Eventually had a fitful night sleep as train stopped several times through the night.
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